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The South African State Theatre has noted statements that have been on social media by Ms Mamela Nyamza, the institution’s former Deputy Artistic Director. The SAST has always ensured that the termination of an employment relationship with any of its staff members is treated with utmost care, dignity, respect and confidentiality. It is for that reason that the SAST has not been responding to social media remarks and allegations that have been made by Ms Nyamza and her associates. The SAST wants to place on record that Ms Nyamza’s dismissal had nothing to do with the accusations that she and her associates have been making.
While the SAST recognises and respects her right to freedom of expression, it is important that the statements are factual and not emotional. Ms Nyamza was subjected to a disciplinary process in accordance with the SAST’s Disciplinary Code and the Labour laws of the Republic of South Africa. It is important that the proceedings of the disciplinary hearing on 14 November 2019 are provided in detail because in one of the social media posts Ms Nyamza has alleged that she was summarily dismissed. It is a distortion of the truth that Ms Nyamza was summarily dismissed. Ms Nyamza was aware of the date, time and venue of the disciplinary hearing but elected not to attend, only sending legal representation.
The SAST opposed the presence of her lawyer because it is not in line with the SAST Disciplinary and Grievance policy and making exceptions would create an unsustainable precedent. Ms Nyamza’s lawyer confirmed on record that he had advised her to be present at the hearing. In the end, the independent and external chairperson of the disciplinary panel ruled against legal representation.
With legal representation having been refused, the challenge for the chairperson was that she could not postpone the hearing because Ms Nyamza had been in contempt of the disciplinary process. The hearing proceeded without her as it is allowed in law that in the event one of the parties being absent without any justifiable reasons the hearing can proceed. The hearing was conducted in terms of the applicable labour legislation, with the employer’s evidence being presented in full. Ms Nyamza’s decision to undermine the disciplinary process is unfortunate as it meant that she deprived herself of the opportunity to present her side of the story. The chairperson of the disciplinary panel communicated her verdict on Friday, 15 November. Ms Nyamza was informed the following week about the outcome of the hearing and the sanction of dismissal.
The SAST does not wish to comment further on the matter as Ms Nyamza still has recourse to the SAST’s appeal process and any other route she may wish to follow. It is not the intention of the SAST to undermine and prejudice the appeal processes, and we are of the view that the credibility of all internal and external structures and processes need to be protected.
We wish to remind the media fraternity that currently there are shows performing in our theatres as part of marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence and we plead with the journalists to provide coverage and exposure to the artists who are courageously putting their challenging and thought-provoking artistic works on stage.
Members of the media are welcome to engage our PR and Marketing team for details about the festival and interviews so that the artists can enjoy maximum publicity. On Sunday, 1 December the theatre will begin with a wide range of theatre and musical performances as part of its annual Mzansi Fela Festival. The preparations for the SAST’s Dance Umbrella Africa 2020 and the Vavasati International Festival are underway and these festivals will be presented in line with the artistic calendar.